Zero Food Waste
Operating a Zero Food Waste Restaurant:
MANA! saves 2.5 tonnes of food scraps monthly to donate to Hong Kong’s community organic farms
Running a successful business while being eco-friendly is no easy task, but Bobsy Gaia has managed to make it work since he first founded MANA! Fast Slow Food four years ago. Integral to his vision as an eco-entrepreneur is the willingness to make financial sacrifices in favour of eco friendly practices, such as the sourcing of takeaway packaging that is fully biodegradable but costs 200x more than your average styrofoam container, or hiring full time staff specifically to sort and transport food scraps destined for composting.
“From day one, our business ethos was driven by the desire to not create more waste on this planet,” says Bobsy. “The approach definitely drives up our operating costs, but the responsibility to reduce carbon footprint cannot be ignored, as the long-term cost of operating cheaply — though not immediately apparent — is much too great. Thankfully, our values are shared and appreciated by customers who are increasingly choosing to spend their money at conscious businesses, forming a strong sense of community.”
MANA! has now expanded into three vegetarian restaurants, which together save more than two tonnes of food scraps per month. The scraps are gathered and sorted weekly by MANA!’s dedicated staff before being driven to the New Territories, where organic farms are more than happy to compost them.
“Hong Kong’s soil quality is unfortunately quite poor,” says KK, an ex-school teacher who now runs 天作之為, a community farm in Tin Shui Wai that is one of three recipient farms of MANA!’s food leftovers. “By composting clean, vegetable-only food scraps, we are improving the soil with fertile matter, perfect for growing organic vegetables.”
“MANA! has saved over 100 tonnes of food waste and leftovers since we opened in 2012, equal to the weight of twenty elephants!” Bobsy notes. “We are just a small business, but imagine the impact made if all 15,000 restaurants in the city were to do the same! Hong Kong’s landfill problem may actually be solvable.”
Hong Kong’s waste management problem is indeed a big one. With just three landfill areas to manage the entire city’s waste, some say our landfills will be filled by 2019, if not earlier. As almost half the waste in our landfills is biodegradable food waste, MANA! believes that more restaurants following their lead in compost food waste will go a long way to tackle the problem.